Snowmageddon stair renovation

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As soon as the afternoon of impending snow doom approached, I raced to Home Depot – even before the grocery store. The thought of being cooped up inside for days with over a foot of snow forced me to plan a big project to keep up productivity. Our basement flooded about two months ago and we put engineered hardwood in the basement but I didn’t like the thought of spending an additional $2,000 just to have the stairs done. Convinced that I could make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, I figured I could strip, sand, and refinish the stairs well enough so that we could put a runner and leave the outside four inches on either side exposed. I’d put the redo off until the floors were finished and the furniture had been delivered- not to mention some uninterrupted time to work.

Tearing off the carpet was pretty quick. Carpet is usually laid in two stair increments, but our full stairs were laid in two very long, heavy, sharp pieces. I removed the carpet, padding, tack strips, and all nails and staples in about an hour.




After removing everything I was disappointed to see that is wasn’t just the offspray of trim paint underneath, and in my move in renovation haste I’d forgotten that the previous owners had painted the stairs with thick gray paint. I used Citristrip paint stripper that is better for indoor use, has less fumes, and works in about 30 minutes. It’s about $20 for the large size and I used half of the container for the full flight of stairs. When stripping the stairs I worked on every other stair to allow a clean stair to walk on. Paint stripper makes the surface pretty gummy and messy so wear shoes that the sole can get dirty.

The stripper took of all of the white and some gray, leaving me no choice but to sand with a palm sander using 50 and 60 grit sandpaper. I did feel foolish when my dad said be careful not to tear off too much of the stair with such a coarse grit, but believe it or not the paint was on there so thick I went through multiple packs of sandpaper before it was ground off and ready for stain.

At this point, mid – project, I start feeling sorry for myself, overwhelmed, and thinking the project will never finish and what mind was I in to undertake such a preposterous task that was far above my skill level. I photograph the various maladies I’ve incurred under said project and the disheveled state of tools and supplies.


Then I turn the corner and things start looking up. The paint was sufficiently stripped, color tests commenced, and the tops were stained gunstock. It is redder than I would have liked but finished is more prized.


I stained the tops before working on the risers because it is easier to cover stain that bleeds to the edge with paint than to try to control watery stain in reverse. I taped the edge and used a $2 quart of custom mix-oops paint-that I will never know the real color of-but liked it well enough anyway. I applied two coats in close succession because flat dries quick and nicely.



A couple of hours later, I finished by cutting in around the trim work with white semi gloss – also taping the stairs with two long strips of frog tape from top to bottom of the stair case to prevent any bleeding into the stained top or cream painted riser. I pull off the tape before things are fully dried from bad experiences with the old style masking tape, but Frog Tape is worth its weight in gold and fully deserves to be sold and stored in it’s own little clam shell jewelry box like splendor. The stuff is magic. Here’s a close up of just how perfect I’m talking. Crisp lines that do not hint at the grossness that was hiding underneath the carpet only days before. Remember- builder’s grade pine stairs refinished in about five work sessions (the first two pretty long and rough).

Current status is one coat of polyurethane on the stair tops and I think I’ll leave it at that. I have an aerial view of after since I’m stuck at the top with no way downstairs. I’m so pleased with it I think I will forgo the runner until I get my next inkling for change or there is snow in the forecast. Cost break down- $2000 for solid hardwood – OR – redoing my pine stairs myself – $6 sandpaper, $20 stripper, $2 cream paint, $6 Frog Tape, $5 stain, $10 polyurethane – job done with my own two blistered hands – always priceless.




I’m dreaming of a white Christmas

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A couple of weeks ago we woke up to a morning blanketed in white and gleefully rejoiced that it meant a day at home – no work, no school, just inside snuggled up warmly. It set the perfect stage for Christmas so I had to take a couple of pictures.



There’s nothing like fresh snow to make Christmas seem to have already arrived. I took several more pictures to showcase my Christmas home – it’s always changing from year to year despite how I tell ornaments ‘No!’ when they plead to hop into my cart on a 90% off after Christmas sale. I guess there are worse infractions in life – especially when I’m the one rifling through the attic to unpack and repack.

Every room has a touch of Christmas. My daughter got her white tree for her vintage French country bedroom decor and she decorated it with gold ornaments. I had to make her a cream moire satin tree skirt with an olive velvet ruffled trim and her monogram.


My dining and living rooms are my favorite. They are decorated in golds and blues and get lots of attention because that’s where we spend Christmas Eve for our formal dinner. I like to use glass and silver. The vessels on the buffet will be filled with seasonal fruits and holiday sweets.




The magnolia wreath is homemade and greens cut from the bottom of the Christmas tree are used in wreaths and arrangements.

The kitchen is the hustle and bustle center of the holiday where everything is homemade for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day brunch so decorations are kept simple and either easily movable or out of the way. Our nature tree features raffia wrapped around it with sparrows perched on branch tips, little pots, vintage seed packets, small pieces from my copper collection- assembled as if the birds built their nests there and decorated the tree themselves; the nature tree is backdropped by a sleeping garden.


This year’s addition is the greenery on the railing. I used greenery that I’ve had for years and stocked up on flocked juniper sprays, glittered orchids, glittered money plant, peacock feathers wrapped in white lights.


Our vintage vibe tree features strictly antique ornaments on the tree and the mantle. This room is also a busy one where we celebrate Christmas morning and every seat is taken so I didn’t overfill it this year.





It’s been warmer during the past couple of days but we’ve begun the cool off to my favorite days of the year. I look forward to celebrating Christmas each year and it seems to roll around faster each time. Here’s to celebrations with family and laughter – Merry Christmas!

My vintage vibe tree

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Over the past couple of years I’ve added slowly to a vintage ornament collection. I came across a huge stash for sale this fall that sat in a box in the family room well before the much anticipated Christmas season commenced – certain that I’d use many of the newest additions from my collection. After considering how many I had amassed, I decided my family room decor theme would strictly be vintage. Anything that hadn’t patina-ed, tarnished, chipped, or muddled in color wouldn’t have a place; not that my familiar ornaments aren’t special but this is me living wild and crazy Christmas.

I spent the afternoon yesterday decorating the tree with my daughter and we hung more ornaments than I’ve ever put on any tree before. Literally each bough is adorned with multiple baubles in different styles, colors, and ‘circas’. I guess I will never decorate with this latest set of ornaments again without thinking of the seller. He said his grown kids and their families didn’t want the ornaments – even though many had been his since childhood- and they were downsizing so he was glad to part with them. Not even my family, but I can’t help but think of him as a child- small hands that grew into elderly hands that held onto new shaky, chubby fingers each year at this time as they prepared for holiday festivities. How to part with such cheerful history…

I love how the cracks and imperfections of each globe pick up the lights and the crooked hangers have carefully been rebent until they’ve weakened tightly grabbing onto piney branches. The horizontal stripes wrapping in even bands, the dry thick glitter, and the non existent ringer underneath the bell just aren’t manufactured with this kinda holiday charm anymore. There are no two ornaments alike and it’s the perfectly vintage not perfect tree for all time for us.


The look of custom in the blink of an eye

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Give me 30 seconds and I will have another project in mind. Pretty much everyone in my entire family knows this about me and I think the employees at Lowes and Home Depot probably suspect. This one was fairly large- the kind upon finishing that I can’t resist but inspect, reinspect, and take photos trying to capture it in the same gleaming light of basking in my own pride.

The before:

My cabinets were here when the builders put them in originally but I can never shake the urge to give custom spins on whatever is within reach and can be cured with a chop saw and a few strips of nails. The black moulding became dark and boring – lacking the height I envisioned in a custom dream kitchen. I poured over Pinterest for days prior to planning. I couldn’t wait for Friday when the project was to commence. I didn’t say anything to anybody at my house about the impending upheaval. It’s the kind where dinner is eaten next to a nail
compressor standing silent watch over paper plates and bites between another step of work- dust on every horizontal surface – and laundry baskets become make shift tool boxes and catch alls. Friday came and I raced home with cut wood pieces filled to the brim of my car singing all the way. I emptied the car and came inside to my husband who knows me so well. I jumped around telling him ‘It’s a project surprise! Surprise!’ – thinking he’d get excited too with me do out of character. He just said ‘No.’ Just what I’m used to hearing before I yell ‘Fire up the nail gun and give me a crowbar. This project is about to commence.’

Here is the during. I like to show progress. It’s my light at the end of the tunnel as I check and recheck during the various stages. I added bead board to the back and suspended these faux tops from the wall so there was no added weight to the cabinets (due to the excessive weight from compulsive milk and depression glass collecting). The crown moulding was lifted and fixed to the ceiling basically the same template above- just 12 inches higher.




The outside edges were lined with bead board to hide the openings of the faux tops. I was glad to come up with a way to prevent the added weight. Then the moulding was added back on.

I took a drawer face to get the color custom matched to paint. It is amazingly perfect and the cabinets really look as if they were originally constructed this way.

It’s the much needed extension to add to my collections in their own cozy homes. Gotta go shopping for some glassware.




Ar – 4s1 3d10

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Not that I was ever scientifically inclined- but after trying to sing the element song to different tunes this week – I thought about my copper collection. It gets a patina so quickly that I love but tire of right around the time it’s ready to be polished. I hauled my whole collection to the sink and washed it with Barkeeper’s Friend.

I was surprised by how much filled the cavernous sink and enjoyed them all soapy as much as I do when they are rinsed all sparkly clean before I put them on a towel to dry. I love the color. There’s nothing like it. It’s so french country fall.



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It started with a drawing – and about ten minutes on Pinterest before I decided I had to have a french trumeau inspired mirror. My parents gave me a full length mirror with a thin white painted frame that I held onto knowing I’d do something with it. After my bathroom remodel I decided it was time. Pretty much everything that passed through the doors of my Turkish bath had to be over the top- this mirror was no exception.
I wanted all of my materials to be recycled/found/green/free. The main part of the mirror was an 18″ wide old door rescued for free during an architectural salvage extravaganza. The trim was all left over odds and ends that I swept cobwebs from to use on top and bottom and a gift contribution from my neighbor. The medallion was saved for a rainy day from a past project. The detailed frame is a recut antique frame that belonged to my grandfather. I broke it apart and recut the edges smaller to fit the size of the mirror.


The pieces looked like a mess scattered on my driveway last weekend, but little by little it took shape and I nail gunned all of the trim in place. I used Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint in Ironstone and Linen to bring out the trim and recoated the body in regular oops paint from the hardware store. It’s a little bit greener than I would have liked but I can always add some more milk paint to wash the green out some.
It will eventually be mounted in the wall equidistant between the ceiling and baseboards. I love the idea of reusing and repurposing and I’m always glad to be reminded of my grandfather by incorporating his things in what I use everyday. I think he’d be super happy to see my construction skills improving- I’ve learned a lot since he was last around.




It came out too green for my taste with the bathroom color scheme so I hit it with some of Miss Mustard Seed’s white wax and it is now exactly right.

The guinea pig

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There’s nothing like the sound of construction overhead, sketches and measurements, and swatches and samples for new designs to make me any happier. My husband thinks I just love the smell of paint and has offered to just buy me a gallon to sniff if it’d take the place of my actual need for construction. There’s nothing that takes that place. Waking up to a room in its present state and watching it evolve into what only I could see in my head is indescribable.

That was the bathroom first thing in the morning. Only a few short joyful hours later it became:

I started with the small bathroom to work out all of the kinks to make it just right for the master. The contractor worked all day and I worked a bunch at night on things I wanted to do myself.


I used Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint in Ironstone and antiqued the faces.
I painted the vanity cabinets myself. I used wood conditioner and sanded it after it dried that created the two different colors featured here.




The above was pre paint.